The other day I saw an owl in daylight--Washington Park, sagely astute and attentively stationed in a tree hole. And I felt a communication between my self and this mystery of happenstance called coincidence, called alternative causality, or synchronicity. In the months before he died, Philip K. Dick began brainstorming what would be his 45th novel, The Owl in Daylight. In What If Our World Is Their Heaven?: The Final Conversations of Philip K. Dick, Gwen Lee interviews Dick at his home in January of 1982 (Dick died in March) about a variety of topics, but most importantly this unpublished work.
We first learn that this is to be Dick's version of the Faust
story--"A good writer is Faustian
," he says, admiring James Joyce
's Finnegan's Wake
. "OK, now I will do the Faust story" by blending Beethoven
with Faust, and redifining the myth
. What if we add some Pythagoras
and apply it to the visual spectrum:
"In the sequence: music, mathematics, what would be the third? Now what follows logically--nobody's been able to figure it out, nor even do I know that anybody's even tried to figure it out. Well, I came up with what I believe is the next sequence, and the unit in the sequence--... I burned out as a result of envisioning it because I envisioned it in my mind, like I see my characters you know, when I'm writing I actually see them. I saw this in my mind, in my mind's eye, you know how you do, I saw this, and it consisted of a musical score in which the notes were arranged entirely mathematically. Which is OK so far, I mean there's nothing that hasn't been already done, but the third factor was color. Now, all color is of a particular frequency. They're measured in what's called millimicrons. The Fraunhofer lines.. Music is a vibration at a particular frequency. Color is a vibration of a particular visual frequency... So I conceived of an object existing along three axes--color, mathematics, and music simultaneously."
"Our art is predicated on sound" he says, but imagine an alien race many lightyears away who have never developed sound capabilities--their atmosphere will not allow it. Their method of purely abstract art and expression is light. Color. Conversations on a visual matrix. In essence, the fullness of their expression is the bright white light, what many here on Earth consider their heaven.
And what if our world is their heaven? They are evolved, beyond us and they travel, discovering our little world. And in their dreams, their spirituality they know they've discovered their own heaven in our sound. They have enough technical know-how to be able to hear the sense data of music, but their minds... they are not well-accustomed to our cultural production, they cannot organize the music. It is decided that somehow an alien will have to create a symbiotic relationship with a human, to live inside their brain partially, and transmit an organized appreciation of their holy world. So a self-sacrificing alien puts his essence into a biochip, placed inside an unsuspecting human's head: a trite music composer, for schmaltzy movies. They think this will be a good idea, but when forced to submit to the dredgery of cheese that this man composes, the alien gets antsy.
And he begins to forcibly exert pressure on the composer, unbeknownst to he. His compositions become fantastical, acclaimed. Based on an advanced form of math that the alien contributes to its host. And it is from this basic premise that Dick discusses where it will all go: to a transaction of Faustian proportions, on both the alien and the composer's behalf.
"And at the very end we see their world through a human mind." Their world of color languages, by an exchange of the man's body and ability to organize complex sound arrangements for death, and release, and imprinting onto his own biochip to be loaded into one of the home-retruning aliens.
It is obvious that this work would have been one of many masterpieces in science fiction. I recommend and urge the reader to discover the fragments in Gwen Lee's What If Our World Is Their Heaven?
When I saw the owl in daylight, it was as if several fragments had clicked together in my head. I felt a merging of many disparate parts of my self that had been fractalized for some time. In pursuit of my own feelings of being in a version of reality that I don't particularly think I belong in, I found this synchronicity as an arrow pointing my self inward and outward. That I know Philip K. Dick was right about a lot of things, and that those knowledges I've experienced for my self are compatible, and that the path that I am on is a valid one.
The Owl in Daylight remains concealed in its hole.