The Tree Must Go

Crusoe had a chance to view the new facility – the brainchild of one of the world’s wealthiest men, who had made his name in a race to sequence the genetic code. He had famously used his own DNA in the process. He later went on to create synthetic life and it was from synthetic biology He made his fortune.

The inspiration to recreate Eden came from watching an old movie, The Truman Show, in which Truman Burbank, played by JC, is cocooned in a world in which everyone else is an extra in his life and everything is stage-managed.

Why not do it properly with real people? They could be designed free of genetic disorders. Their main use for drugs would be for psychedelics or hallucinogens where every dose produced a different outcome in contrast to the numbing uniformity of twenty-first century drugs. A range of projects in a number of different countries had shown how to create self-contained environments. Curiosity’s trip to Mars in 2012 had confirmed the presence of extensive subterranean water, making all else possible. The new facility was set up. Unlike the Truman Show, its occupants were unlikely to come into contact with outsiders for several centuries, perhaps millennia.

Synthetic biology had made it possible to design species to fit the new ecosystem. No-one of course could know beforehand what in fact would happen when these species began to interact. In other words, the place would almost instantly begin to have a history, and slip out of control. Whether He realized this or not was less clear. Maybe He had a fantasy about being able to intervene.

The most important moment was designing the woman to take control of the Garden. The man came from stem cells retrieved from the marrow in one of her ribs.The first couple were just about to be woken up in the Garden, when Crusoe arrived. She was in time to see the final check that everything was in order. One last round for Health and Safety. It was then they noticed the tree, growing on a slope. A firstborn son out climbing who slipped could have a dangerous drop on the downhill side. The tree must go they said.

The New World had a history. Ultra-short story writing became its dominant art form. The form developed when someone dreamt one night of the following: “For sale, baby shoes, never worn“. The shortest was “Crusoe, we say, was saved”.


  1. This piece is utterly incoherent. I’ll never understand what is so special about this guy that he gets to be the sole syndicated columnist whose every blog post gets reposted from his personal blog, to here, a community where he’s never even graced us with his presence to interact with the audience in the comments, nor tailored a piece of writing specifically for this audience. I just don’t get it.

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    • Fair questions. Speaking for myself; what Dr. Healy writes about the pitfalls of research in general and SSRIs specifically he does with a vigor and inciveness that earns my respect. It’s important stuff. He also puts out a steady stream of material. Like you, I don’t agree with every position he takes, but I have respect for his energy around the interests we do share. And even where we may not agree, his output has certainly stimulated a lot of conversation here. If we can all assume each other to be of good faith, then we can assume that more conversation will be better than less, in which case Dr. Healy’s output is helpful in keeping the conversation percolating.
      That said, I will admit to struggling with this piece. I have a sense of what it is getting at, especially after gathering the comments on it from his twitter posts which I put on the front page link. As these comments only appear if it is a featured blog, I ran it as one, even though I was concerned that the piece itself is too opaque. I thought, in the end, it was worth the experiment to see what the comments would be like.
      As far as that goes, I’m gratified so far. Your comment is entirely reasonable, and apt. I feel compelled to consider and respond to it. I do stand by my belief that his contributions are an important part of what we do here. I do wish he were available to engage with our readers. (Though, I hope you will consider it fair of me to say that it is reasonable to assume he has good reason to be wary, given the evidence so far of the reception he might expect). I will say by way of support for him that he was very vocal about not wanting any criticisms of him to be removed, which we respected except for when the expressions crossed the line into something like obscenity.
      So here it is; when you’re engaged in a struggle in which you are part if a relative minority, you don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing your allies. At the least it’s risky to cannibalize from within. I may not agree with everything Dr, Healy espouses; I would welcome the opportunity to know more about his positions where I don’t. And some of his writings are stronger than others. But I’m grateful for his willingness to put himself on the line.

      I guess I was interesting in seeing where the conversation might go. I have declined to post some pieces by less prominent people when the pieces were similarly oblique. Is this because, given that he is a known figure, I figured I could at least count on people to go the extra mile to parse it? I don’t know; perhaps. I think I was interested in a change of pace, at least; a certain amount of expressionism if not surrealism perhaps isn’t out of place in a discussion that includes altered states of consciousness. A touch of poetry, perhaps.

      In fact; as it’s four am and I’ve been up for hours, following the impulsive and unusual ingestion of an “espresso-rubbed steak” at a favorite restaurant, I will indulge as well in wondering whether we would do well to take this thought further and invite some actual poetry. It might be an appropriate way to round out some of what we’re doing here.

      I’ve been thinking recently about the thread in bioethics that asks physicians to not just treat the body, as if the body is separate from the person, but to understand that the body is inextricable from the person and the person within the context of the person’s sense of their own story. I’ve attended lectures in which this theme was pursued in relation to such conditions as cancer, etc., and physicians were exhorted to join with the patient’s sense of story in pursuing treatment; that it would in fact be unethiical not to. And it strikes me how often absent this sense appears to be from psychiatry, a specialty where it would seem to be (and perhaps once was) more intrinsic to it.

      I was thinking to go seek out some writers on bioethics to blog for us, or at least to find some articles to point to that write on these matters from a bioethics point of view. And, if that includes finding ways to join with a person’s story, I think there may be a particular nexus of biology and story that finds its best expression in poetry. It was in this spirit that I was curious to see where this post might lead the conversation.

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      • Well said Kermit – hope the steak tasted good, just googled up what ‘espresso-rubbed’ meant, learning new things every day on MIA.

        I really enjoyed this post from David Healy, saw it first on his own blog, thought it poetic and allegorical. Full of meaning for me, to take out of it what I wanted.

        Like you I don’t agree with everything Dr Healy says but that can be said about many other writers and opinions. It comes from having a critical perspective. In my opinion.

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  2. Perhaps, Anonymous, its about the art of reading existential myth & metaphor, beyond a literal interpretation?

    Here we are, sailing into the 21 century A.D. with the great God America experiencing a crisis of conscious faith, an epidemic of mental illness, as well as financial bankruptcy? There’s a great book out there, called Planet Ponzy, about the current state of capitalism, its a crack-up, if you’ll pardon the pun.

    At the very same time, ordinary citizens are eating from the great tree of available knowledge, on apple i-phones? This age of technology which threatens to overturn the power of the educated priesthood? Just as Jesus, re-interpretation of older text’s, so threatened the power of an educated priesthood, in a previous zeitgeist, (spirit of an age?)

    Is there something serendipitous, in this current manifestation of an ever emerging, re-emerging, eternal now? Should we read the King James interpretation of zeitgeist (spirit of an age?) aspirational dramatizations, as literal history, or existential metaphor & meaning, which remains the same, despite the zeitgeist, age? Consider some wise counsel from a truly great American hero;

    “The problem is that people have tried to look away from space and from the meaning of the moon landing. I remember seeing a picture of an astronaut standing on the moon. It was up at Yale and someone has scrawled on it,

    So what?’

    That is the arrogance of the kind of academic narrowness one too often sees; it is trapped in its own predictable prejudices, its own stale categories. It is the mind dulled to the poetry of existence. It’s fashionable now to demand some economic payoff from space, some reward to prove it was all worthwhile. Those who say this resemble the apelike creatures in 2001. They are fighting for food among themselves, while one separates himself from them and moves to the slab, motivated by awe. That is the point they are missing. He is the one who evolves into a human being; he is the one who understands the future.” _Joseph Campbell.

    “With the moon walk, the religious myth that sustained these notions could no longer be held. With our view of earthrise, we could see that the earth and the heavens were no longer divided but that the earth is in the heavens.” _Joseph Campbell.

    “And if there was no Fall, what then of the need for Redemption? What god was offended and by whom? Some especially touchy cave bear whose skull had been improperly enshrined?” _Joseph Campbell.

    “Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature. And that’s what it is. The nature is your nature, and all of these wonderful poetic images of mythology are referring to something in you. When your mind is trapped by the image out there so that you never make the reference to yourself, you have misread the image. _Joseph Campbell.

    “Clearly, mythology is no toy for children. Nor is it a matter of archaic, merely scholarly concern, of no moment to modern men of action. For its symbols (whether in the tangible form of images or in the abstract form of ideas) touch and release the deepest centers of motivation, moving literate and illiterate alike, moving mobs, moving civilizations.” _Joseph Campbell.

    “When you translate the Bible with excessive literalism, you demythologize it. The possibility of a convincing reference to the individual’s own spiritual experience is lost.” _Joseph Campbell.

    “Sit in a room and read–and read and read. And read the right books by the right people. Your mind is brought onto that level, and you have a nice, mild, slow-burning rapture all the time.” _Joseph Campbell.

    “Man should not be in the service of society, society should be in the service of man. When man is in the service of society, you have a monster state, and that’s what is threatening the world at this minute. …

    Certainly Star Wars has a valid mythological perspective. It shows the state as a machine and asks, “Is the machine going to crush humanity or serve humanity?” Humanity comes not from the machine but from the heart. What I see in Star Wars is the same problem that Faust gives us:

    Mephistopheles, the machine man, can provide us with all the means, and is thus likely to determine the aims of life as well. But of course the characteristic of Faust, which makes him eligible to be saved, is that he seeks aims that are not those of the machine.

    Now, when Luke Skywalker unmasks his father, he is taking off the machine role that the father has played. The father was the uniform. That is power, the state role.” _Joseph Campbell.

    “I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman or child.” _Joseph Campbell.

    “We’re in a freefall into future. We don’t know where we’re going. Things are changing so fast, and always when you’re going through a long tunnel, anxiety comes along. And all you have to do to transform your hell into a paradise is to turn your fall into a voluntary act. It’s a very interesting shift of perspective and that’s all it is… joyful participation in the sorrows and everything changes.” _Joseph Campbell.

    Here our existential mission, and the true power of psychosis, Anonymous, when we get creative and not literal about myth, metaphor & existential meaning?

    “How teach again, however, what has been taught correctly and incorrectly learned a thousand thousand times, throughout the millenniums of mankind’s prudent folly? That is the hero’s ultimate difficult task.” _Joseph Campbell.

    And last, but not least, in reference to euphoric psychosis;

    “If you are falling….dive.” _Joseph Campbell.

    “Ma Mania, Ma Mania, Ma Mania……” But keep it to yourself until experience allows a better sense-ability to really cope with it?

    Warm regards.

    David Bates.

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  3. People like David Bates and David Healy (jeez, what is it now with the Davids?) remind me of something important: Loose Associations and Racing Thoughts may be awful afflictions when they get beyond our control. But they are also a gift especially when used well. Without them, where the hell would humanity be? There’s a great deal of high philosophy, and low science fiction, and vice versa, devoted to trying to understand that. Carry on, please. And thanks.

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