This morning, scientist Karl Jürgen doesn’t want to look at anyone, he wants to keep all his emotions to himself. He wants to feel the graces of his resounding success, after years of sacrifice, as he describes in his autobiography, which will not be released but in four years after today. Today, these quotes exist only in the series of notebooks that the man has used to embed his thoughts, his divine interventions on virgin paper. The doorbell rings and finds Karl looking at himself in the bathroom mirror in his room, reaffirming his glory and majesty with a smile that fills his belly with pride. The reason for so much commotion? The prestigious Brilliant Minds Awards has chosen him as scientist of the year, because of his remarkable contribution to expanding the horizon of human understanding. The smile in the mirror becomes macabre for a fraction of a second, a space of time in which the true nature of this man crosses the complex labyrinth of repressions that have transformed him into a more or less tolerable being for society. If people knew, they would think to themselves, that Karl Jürgen, a neurobiologist and psychoanalyst by profession, respected by patients and colleagues, father of a lovely family composed of his wife Isabelle and his two small children, actually detests the human race. If only some member of the jury of the Brilliant Minds Awards knew that the unique and determining factor for the historical progress of this man is based on the deep hatred he feels every time he shares air with another member of his own species, then that person would understand the macabre smile in the mirror, produced by the certainty that the scientist’s true intentions have not been revealed and that triumph brings him more and better moments of solitude.
A long journey backwards must be undertaken to understand the reasons that have led Karl to develop such an aversion to other people, if we assume the historical condition of the subject in question as a determinant in the justification of his rejection. Perhaps it is something much simpler than that, perhaps it’s his face, too asymmetrical to compete in the field of beauty, perhaps it’s his drooping shoulders or his arms, too long not to earn the nickname “orangutan” among his schoolmates. Perhaps it was his mother’s unrealistic advice, “you are the most beautiful child in the universe and anyone who can’t see it is blind”. Lies that caused deep confusion in little Karl, while he was trying to get a partner in the school dance, occasion in which reality was deformed, that is, how was it possible that the most beautiful child in the universe did not attract the attention of any woman? Questions such as these slowly but surely led young Karl to become interested in the “human condition”, a phrase he rescued from some essay by Jean Paul Sartre and later coined as his own. “For it is impossible to talk about human nature in man as man first finds himself and then thinks about his existence,” good Karl used to repeat this phrase ad nauseam during his university years, where his ugliness was covered by his ability to absorb new knowledge and modify his behaviour according to these new guidelines. Learning, in short, was the action that led Karl to excel in the field of biology, to win the affection of his classmates and even to steal more than a kiss from his female classmates. But the confusion remained there, in the depths of his consciousness, like black waters in the depths of a pond, which can only be seen when you look at it carefully, revealed by the light of joy that his partners caused him when he fell in love with them all. Lost relationships fell between his hands, something understandable if we consider that Karl could never trust any of them. Can a woman love an orangutan? A question that appeared every time he lay down next to a couple, after having sex with his eyes closed and his body tense. And then Karl himself wondered why they left him and blamed the asymmetry of his face, his drooping shoulders, the strange shape of his penis, which he never knew if it had the right proportions. What Karl never saw was that his closed eyes, which were closed to prevent him from seeing his own body, were read by his girlfriends as a sign of their physical defects. That his impulsive anger, a product of confusion and followed by the fear of losing his affections, became indecipherable and exhausting for anyone, be them girlfriends, friends or even family. And that the hatred that grew within him, because of his remoteness from others, had been generated by his own unpleasant behaviour.
Karl had an alternative explanation for all these things, there was something wrong with the human condition, some foundational element on the structure of thought shared among the members of the species was the cause of his suffering. It wasn’t his ugliness, it was that the architecture of thought established static parameters over forms and their corresponding semiotics. It was not his personality, but the conscious perception of others generated distorted discourses of the actions undertaken. His mission then was clear, to establish a map that would reveal this chaotic element that prevented him from developing lasting, true relationships. Karl Jürgen was 32 years old when he began the epic of his entire life, a rigorous journey towards the genesis of human consciousness, determining the physical structures from which it emerges and developing the functional map of its performance. To achieve this goal, Karl left everything behind, as described in his notebooks, although we have to agree that at this point in his life he did not have much more than himself left, to lock himself in a state-of-the-art laboratory, paid for with money specifically collected to promote the general welfare of humanity, away from all interference and thus, finally achieve what he had been looking for all his life, to connect with another person. Years were spent cutting skulls with power saws, disarming living brains in search of changes in the behaviour of animals unable to defend themselves or to prevent the advancement of human knowledge. And Karl never felt empathy for any of the beings he destroyed, whom he incapacitated or injured for the rest of his days, all considered a payment equivalent to the benefits his research would bring later. Not even when he managed to contact a human trafficking network to obtain some specimens, necessary to continue with scientific discoveries, he felt some emotion that was not of excitement, food that was shaping the essence of that macabre smile that appeared from time to time, in the mornings looking at himself in the mirror of the bathroom of his luxurious apartment, located in the most privileged area of the city.
Karl Jürgen receives his award with the happiness of a child who is given a new toy by his parents. The audience that attends the Brilliant Minds Awards ceremony gets up from their chairs and cheers the scientist with applause that lasts for a long time. Jürgen looks back and forth and finally can’t see anyone among the people celebrating. “It doesn’t matter”, he says to himself without realizing that he is gritting his teeth, a bruxism that has accompanied him since he heard his mother tell him that batch of lies, after having returned home crying with the rejected love letter he had written to his classmate at the school dance. 45 years gritting his teeth and Karl Jürgen manages to relax for the first time in his life, holding the golden statuette, symbol of his triumph and recognition of all his effort, while driving his latest model sports car along the long coastal highway. For the first time his jaw rests and the pain of the muscles releasing the grip becomes unbearable. The exhausted mind of so much pretending with his scientific colleagues, with whom he has never had any worthwhile conversation, leads him to forget his busy hand and the sudden movement leads him to hit himself in the face with 25 carats of solid gold. The statuette falls from his hands and gets stuck in the space under the brake pedal. Useless is Karl’s attempt to free the pedal, the effort leds him to also lose control of the car, now headed for the concrete wall that separates both sides of the highway. The electric impulse that comes from his amygdala and runs through his entire cerebral cortex, in search of some behavioural response to face the present situation, finally finds the same response as always, closed eyes that protect Karl from a reality that he doesn’t want to see.
The car hits the concrete wall at more than 130 km/hr. It’s a millionth of a second in which Karl’s entire existence is at stake, while the vehicle is shattering around him. The glass breaks into a thousand pieces and the metals creak when bent and Karl opens his eyes for the first time in his entire life. And what does Karl see? He sees his skin tearing away, from the tip of his nose to his toes. He sees his muscles cutting and exploding under external pressure, releasing the blood that kept him alive all this time and spilling his whole life into the car. He sees his skeleton emerging from living flesh, being expelled forward by the inertia, and then his skull opening like an egg, releasing with it himself, which now comes out of the interior of his body. Karl cannot believe it; all the scientific thought that he has accumulated during his life is not useful to explain what is happening. In spite of all predictions he is still alive, somehow, having left his body behind, he now falls deeply into some place he cannot see, crossing the vastness of a space he cannot define either. Karl can feel the wind between his fingers, although his fingers have been left behind. Karl can feel his hair rosing on his forehead, although his forehead has been left behind. Karl can feel the vertigo that turns his guts, although his guts are gone. The fall goes on for a long time, perhaps days or months, difficult to know in Karl’s consciousness, who spends most of the time of the fall lamenting the inaccuracy of his research. His investigations had reached the brilliant conclusion that a biological substrate for consciousness exists, which emerges from the electrical connections and the chemical composition of the neurons, having removed every last possible piece of tissue from the “volunteers” in his laboratory and carefully reviewing the external behaviours that indicate the existence of a consciousness within the beings studied. Now he himself is falling, in some way, without even having a physical substrate for it, from someplace and to some supposed other place, because if you have to fall, you have to fall somewhere, right?
Some days later, Karl manages to see, without even having eyes to do so, a possible bottom of this endless precipice. A stain, almost an illusion, that grows as time goes by until it becomes more and more evident, it is a vast space, so vast that the eye is unable to decipher it, that appears as the smoking bottom of a boiler, as a pile of incandescent coal accumulated inside a grill whose sinuous staked tips grow in size with proximity, as well as its infinity of valleys and depressions, characteristics of an area transformed by violence, carved by the impact of great mythological beings, divinities of a forgotten era that were expelled from the intents of daylight. Karl receives the impact by covering his body with his extremities, in fetal form, a movement that soon seems useless given the current condition of his existence. By touching the hard floor of volcanic stone, Karl’s invisible skin lights up like grease when in contact with fire. The pain leads him to roll around in the burning floor, increasing the heat through friction and suffering even more because of it. Now Karl can see the limits of his existence again, the whole surface of his body covered by ashes of himself. The pain does not diminish and his feet burn with every step, almost by inertia he seeks refuge at the entrance of a nearby cave. There, he rests and takes advantage of observing the apocalyptic landscape, a sky so dark that no glimmer can be seen in the whole extension of its imposing size, so vast and dark that seems to come over him at every moment. The scarce light, which allows observing the irregularities on the surface, comes from the reddish and bubbling magma that crosses the obsidian contours of all the spaces. As expected, Karl cannot believe what he is living, he immediately weaves a line of thought that dismisses the dantesque vision standing before him. In search of a reasonable explanation to the experienced phenomenon, Karl barely manages to listen to the words that come from inside the cave. They are murmurs that come to him from the depths, be one or two, maybe three people talking in a low voice. Karl decides to approach the sound and walks carefully into the cave, when he does he notices that the ashes fall from his body and he becomes invisible again, however, the fire that emanates from the floor burns his entire skin again, replacing the lost ashes. His aversion leads him to remove his ashes compulsively, but after noticing the futility of his actions, he decides to forget the whole matter and go on. A little further on, Karl Jürgen, the scientist awarded by the Brilliant Minds awards, finds the reason for so much murmuring, a group of beings like himself, with their skin made of ashes and scratching compulsively, find themselves talking, gathered in front of a fire built with magma and incandescent stones. One of them looks at him and greets him, inviting him to join the rest in front of the fire. Karl smiles and is very happy to have found another person, another fellow countryman, another neighbour, perhaps a friend, in such a devastating scene. A joy, like no other in his life, tickles him from head to toe and leads him to embrace his new companions, to sit among the stones with all the intention of paying attention and contributing with his own ideas. The others receive him enthusiastically and then prepare to continue the discussion, the topic? Where we are and how we got here.