This is a short story that I wrote several years ago concerning many subjects that I find fascinating. Perhaps you might as well. Perhaps not. I humbly offer it to you though, either way.
The Father, The Son, and The Holy Ghost
By Michael Patrick Vitale
“Oh Jesus,” Edward says as he leans away from his wife and closer towards his passenger window, getting a better view of the protestor’s primal volcanism. The crowd outside just noticed his limousine and begins to ooze from the sidewalk, into the roadway, blocking his driver’s path. Edward’s eyes languidly survey the crowd of activists as he shakes his head in disbelief and rests his nose on the cold glass for a moment. His view of the estrangement outside is gradually lost as his passenger-side window fogs up from the warm air of his breath, pulsing against his chilled view of the world outside.
The soft and eloquent leather of Edward’s seat squeaks and crackles as he sits back.
His wife, Lauren, breaks the silence with a soft sympathetic click of her tongue. She says, “People are equally as fickle as they are thankful Edward, especially when new ideas challenge the beliefs they were raised on.”
Their driver slowly parts the ocean of protestors with their brightly painted signs, chanting, “Life is sacred, death should be respected.” The limousine eventually settles in front of an elegant architectural tower of steel and glass—the epicenter of the crowd’s disdain: Cosgrove Industries.
Lauren leans in towards her husband and says, “Perhaps faith is like that foggy window of yours,” kissing him on the lips, and then fading back towards her seat with his chin resting on her delicate fingertips, “and science… science will allow those people outside the opportunity to get their nose off of the glass and clear away the condensation that obscures their view.” She slowly draws her hand back and adjusts the geometry of her head so that she is staring up, squarely into Edward’s eyes. She smiles.
Edward does his best to return the smile, but his efforts more closely resemble a guy yanking his cheeks up towards his eyes. He looks down at his feet.
Lauren can’t help but giggle from his effort and says, “Are you smiling or wincing?
“That was supposed to be a smile.” Edward fidgets with the handle on his door.
“Could have fooled me, Clint Eastwood.”
“Ah, there he is.”
He smiles, this time, of the far more authentic variety.
“I feel like a magician—I just made that furrow in your brow…” she claps her hands together and then pushes them apart from one another with a glitter of dancing fingers, and whispers, “disappear,” with a slight lean towards macabre entertainer, as if she has yet another trick up her sleeve for her make-believe audience.
They both laugh for a moment.
The driver exits the vehicle and sluggishly elbows his way around the protestors surrounding the limousine in order to open the door for Mr. Cosgrove.
As Edward’s passenger door opens the furious clatter and chants of the protesters pierce the silent steel bubble they had a moment ago. He puts his right hand on the roof of the car to exit, looks back at his wife and shouts over the noise, “Today is the day. I can feel it.”
Lauren wags her head in understanding. “Tell mother I said hello and give your father my love,” hollering over the commotion from outside.
Edward leans in to kiss his wife goodbye and silently mouths the words I love you before stepping into the street.
The intonations from the protesters echo off the face of his huge downtown skyscraper, housing 37 separate business endeavors first began by Mr. Edward J. Cosgrove nearly 44 years ago at the tender age of 18. Nearly all of his business efforts have reshaped human existence. His inventions, discoveries, and philanthropy have allowed the blind the basic human right of reading their personal mail or gaping in awe from a vanilla-orange sunset; the deaf to listen to an ocean and appreciate the numerous works of Beethoven; the paralyzed the ability to walk to the bathroom and relieve themselves, not to mention the necessary clean up afterwards, in privacy.
He pushes forward, trailblazing with his arms and elbows amongst the hysteria surrounding his enormous place of business and slowly works his way forward, away from the limousine behind him. Peripherally he hears a break from the two-tone chant emanating from all around the tight sphincter-like pathway of human beings. He hears a man. He hears his violent words strike him like the sound of colliding steel amongst the everyday noise of commuter traffic: “You’re a fucking monster.” He feels something wet hit his face. Cosgrove digs through his jacket pocket, stops, and then wipes away the sulfur-hued snot from his face with a handkerchief, resuming his efforts towards the front entrance of Cosgrove Industries without looking back.
The opulent ground floor of his building houses a lovely fountain with holographic images projecting onto a dancing wall of water. Structural pillars double as towering, concise, digital screens, projecting relaxing computer-animated simulacrum to the visitor: flowers, ponds, stone gardens, flowing water, aquariums. Edward waves to the on-duty security guard. He calls the elevator. Going up. Edward feels close to home.
110th floor. The elevator chimes; the doors slide open. Edward takes a deep breath, exhales, smiles, and then moves forward saying, “Good morning, Mother.”
“Good morning, Son. How’s my baby doing?”
“Oh, better—now that I’m here.”
“That’s good, baby. That’s wonderful. Don’t let the troglodytes outside bother you. Today is the big day. Your father will be so proud. We should wake him.”
“I agree, Mother.” Edward points with his thumb like a hitchhiker. “I’m going to go grab a cup of coffee down the hall and we’ll get started.”
“Oh dear, I wish you wouldn’t rely on coffee so much.”
Edward walks briskly towards the break room, conceding to his mother’s testament with a simple gesture: both hands, raised in front of him. “I know, I just like the way I think afterwards.”
“I’ll wait for you here,” she says with a fine-have-it-your-way laugh.
After Edward pours himself his first cup of coffee, he turns away from the kitchenette and leans his body against the countertop. He takes a cautious sip and stares at the wall adorned with his various accomplishments: A Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science from MIT, a Bachelor of the Arts Degree in Anthropology from Harvard University, an M.D. from Harvard Medical School, American Medical Writers Association Awards, an Inventor of the Year award from MIT, The Nation Medal of Technology, and honorary doctorate degrees from several major universities, amongst many others. Like his Mother and Father, both MIT graduates and scientists, he has focused his life on the pursuit of knowledge, and the betterment of humanity. Many of the exponential leaps in modern medicine and computer science all have Edward J. Cosgrove to thank for his contributions—both intellectual and financial. While still attending Harvard Medical School, Cosgrove sold his first business venture for $500,000 to Reed, Sterling, and Deerworth. He in turn used this capitol to finance his ideas and subsequent business ventures, eventually becoming a billionaire philanthropist. If he hasn’t thought it up, he’s most likely financed it.
His recent accolades have all stemmed from his research and breakthroughs using nanotechnology, focusing on the medical benefits of these devices. Edward’s current financial and intellectual endeavors are centered on the mapping of the human brain, using advancements in nanotechnology and his subsequent development of artificial intelligence. He, as well as his mother and father, have worked diligently to answer questions regarding self-awareness.
Edward takes another sip of his coffee and saunters back into the main laboratory, hand in pocket. “So, how is father doing?”
She settles on a sighing, “Oh,” a very low pitch emanating from the primal basement of doubt and worry, before continuing: “His vital signs are stable however I am especially worried about him today. He’s been pretty unresponsive to most of my conversation this morning… I imagine he’s just a bit nervous.”
“To be honest, Mother, I’m a bit nervous.”
“Oh, you needn’t be dear. He’s a strong man—this is why I love him. Everything will work out just as planned.”
As Edward walks towards his father’s medical quarters, he asks, “Is he still sleeping?”
“Yes, we should wake him.”
Down the hall from the main laboratory, a frail Joseph Cosgrove rests comfortably on an assisted breathing device. Granted, there were the salad days without the bedpan, but on the other hand, there was a time in Joseph’s youth when he used to relieve himself in an outhouse. He has seen the advent of the automobile. He’s witnessed a human being escape the confines of Earth’s gravity for the first time, conquer the math behind acquiring an orbit, and finally landing on the moon. He’s gaped at the advent of nuclear energy. He and his colleagues were responsible for the first functioning quantum computer at MIT. He’s discovered, first hand, the benefits of nanotechnology. And in his old age, he has witnessed the first unique artificial intelligence to display, at least what appears to be, human emotion.
Edward Cosgrove slowly runs his fingers through his dad’s hair and whispers into his ear, “Good morning dad. How are you feeling this morning?”
Joseph groggily opens his eyes, lifting his volatile left hand to move the breathing apparatus from his mouth in order to speak. However, Edward gets there first and gently urges his father’s erratic hand back to a resting position. Joseph smiles softly and says, “Hey Tiger, good morning.
“Today is the big day, dad. Are you ready?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be, Edward. However, I’m wondering if you’re prepared for this.”
“Oh believe me, father, I can hardly contain my excitement! Think of the possibilities! Eventually, you’re going to be able to run again! The subcontracted development of a full-body prosthesis for you has been completed and is in testing as we speak. We are continuing our efforts on the fully organic equivalent. After I am satisfied with their results on your new organic body, I will give the green light on testing.
Joseph’s brow furrows suddenly during his son’s excitement as he sighs and looks away. He says, “Son, I’ve been avoiding this conversation for far too long. We need to talk.” Joseph takes a moment to gather him self before beginning what he knows to be an uncomfortable exchange of words. “Have you ever considered the spiritual implications behind what you are attempting?”
“What do you mean dad? Like whether or not God would approve?” He chuckles, “Dad you know that I’ve never been one to believe in century old cults—some omnipotent grandfather who observes my scientific trespasses from some ethereal cloud, passing judgment on what he views as my indiscretions. Besides, I don’t need that anyway.” Edward points emphatically towards his father’s 110th floor window. “If I wanted or required anyone to pass judgment on my actions, I could simply visit the mayhem happening down stairs; I’m sure they would be more than happy to accommodate.”
“Oh son, that’s not what I mean.” Joseph closes his eyes for a moment and takes a deep and difficult breath, “I don’t know where I am going—I don’t know whether there is somewhere for me to go. I know that I am here right now, with you, but will I be when everything is complete?
Edward leans in to his father with deep sincerity, “Yes,” he whispers in a breathy confidence, “absolutely! I know that everything will be just as it is now.”
“How do you know that for you sure, Edward? Despite all of the research, despite all of your hard work, despite all of your success, as scientists, we can only make conjectures when it comes to the unique nature of self-awareness. You have mapped the human brain, and we think we understand the biochemistry behind its function: but, does that really lend towards any further understanding of the human soul?” Joseph leans on those last two words with all the urgency and passion he can muster—his words, then, like a dead body, slowly lose their buoyancy, sinking into the dark depths of a calm lake of silence. He tries to make eye contact with Edward. “Here you are talking to me right now—I want you to ask me a question.”
Intrigued by Joseph’s request, Edward leans in slightly. “What question would you like me to ask you, dad?”
This pleases Joseph, “I want you to ask me whether I’m alive.”
Edward pauses, “Are you alive?”
“No,” Joseph whispers, delicately.
Edward scoffs, “That’s obviously a lie, pop.”
Joseph’s face brightens with the opportunity of debate, grinning as he continues with his argument. “How do you know whether my answer is truth or lie, son? You don’t—it’s impossible for you to. Any form of intelligence is capable of a lie, whether organic or artificial. Think back on the early forms of artificial intelligence we created together using algorithms. Our Talkbot application would learn to answer questions and hold conversations based off of all previous interaction with humans—much like how a human child learns to communicate. Now, you tell me: if you were to ask Talkbot if it were alive, what would its answer have been?”
Edward prods his tongue into the lower-right molars of his mouth. He knows his father has a good point, and this is no comfort to their situation. Having sufficiently milked his ego of its pride like a morning cow, Edward replies, “Talkbot would say, ‘Yes, I’m alive’.”
“Exactly, son—and perhaps it was. Who are we to know? We are not Talkbot. There is no certainty to science; we only pretend to lay a great foundation for our collective knowledge on some strange beast of lie we call fact: a well-thought-out and tested thesis arrived at, scientifically, and widely accepted as nothing short of actual. And sadly, the more intelligent we become as a species, conversely, the more inclined are we to prejudice and ignorance, completely unawares of all our transgressions in those departments; we conduct ourselves with far more certainty than we deserve, even through our rigid observational methods and standards. We’re blinded by our own scientific dogma and satisfied enough to elevate ourselves to the complexities and chaos of creation if not just to satiate our curiosity about its elegance… and deep mystery.”
Edward stares off at some indistinguishable point on a wall while Joseph continues. “Look, son. I know that I am. I have experiences that are solely my own by interpretation. I know that I think and perceive in a manner that is unique unto me, and my brain. However, do any of us really know for certain how this equates to the soul? My brain, in all its subtle intricacies, creates I, and I am my brain. Can the two be separated from one another? Despite your research and findings, I am not so sure.”
Edward is becoming noticeably flustered and Joseph pauses.
“Well, what about Mother?” Edward asks.
Joseph licks his parched and cracked lips and says, “Yes, what about your mother”—Joseph chuckles, “son you are an absolute marvel. I am so very proud of you. I need you to know that. Within our lifetime, your mother and I have created great many a thing, but you, by far, are the greatest of our creations. I remember the day you were born. Have I ever told you that story?”
Edward closes his eyes and shakes his head slowly from shoulder to shoulder.
Joseph continues, “If I remember correctly, your mother and I were at a party celebrating the completion of a processor we had been entrenched in for the past several months at MIT. I remember that we were both speaking with Richard Fulbright,” Joseph’s eyes gloss over with a sweet reminiscent glaze, “he was quite the character. He had such a vivid imagination and a wicked sense of humor. He was actually responsible for most of the databases compiled on human subjects in order to improve our artificial intelligence research—human experiences and so forth. At any rate, your mother and I were nearly in tears from some story that Richard was telling us when her water broke. I remember feeling like an absolute wreck as I rushed her to the hospital. It was in the wee hours of the morning, and your mother was a few weeks early. The doctor arrived in a posh tuxedo from a dinner party and didn’t have enough time to get scrubbed up before you came popping out—you were always in a hurry.” Joseph grins and can’t help but laugh as he reaches the climax of his story. “No sooner did you burst out of your mother than did you urinate all over the good doctor.” His laughter segues into a violent fit of coughing. Joseph regains his composure, smiles again up at his son, and does his best to clear his throat and continues with the story. “Anyway, the doctor says, ‘Well, at least we know that works’.”
Joseph puts his worn hand over his son’s. “Mister, you were always destined to make a lasting impression.”
Edward begins to cry and rests his head on his father’s chest.
“Son, I need you to know that you weren’t responsible for what happened to your mother. Complications are what they are. No one could have foreseen the health issues that arose from her condition after she gave birth. She lived a long and fruitful life and had the blessing of seeing you before she passed. She would be so absolutely proud of you had she the opportunity—I know this in my heart.”
Joseph anchors his shaking hand on Edward’s cheek, “You have done amazing things with Richard’s database and research. She seems as real as the wife I knew and loved.”
Joseph is suddenly overcome with a far more violent fit of coughing; his breathing becomes erratic and he loses consciousness. Edward tries to help his father with his breathing apparatus. The electrocardiogram suddenly jumps from a steady rhythmic pulse to an erratic and random set of V’s along the screen. Edward pushes away the stool he was sitting on and quickly moves towards the computer equipment permeating the outskirts of his father’s medical quarters with the composure of confidence.
“Mother, bring the servers online and begin the database transfer from father’s hippocampus and frontal lobes. I need you to initiate a complete secondary brain scan. Make sure that everything we have is current in terms of content. Mother, do we have a compatible rhythm for defibrillation?”
“Data transfer and secondary brain scan initiated. Hold on, Joseph. Current readings suggest cardiopulmonary resuscitation.”
Edward moves over to his father’s bedside, crosses his hands over Joseph’s chest and begins rapidly compressing for several minutes.
“That’s good, Edward; I have what I need to begin defibrillation.”
Joseph’s frail muscles contract with each electrical pulse. After several attempts, the electrocardiogram moves from frequent and erratic V’s, to a slow and wavy line.
“Data transfer and secondary brain scan complete. We have what we need, Edward.”
“Excellent. It’s 11:47 AM. I’m calling it. Go ahead and reboot the servers and let’s see what we’ve got.”
Several minutes pass before Mother begins to laugh hysterically.
“What is it, Mother?”
She continues to chuckle as she says, “Oh, it’s your Father. He’s always known how to make me laugh.”
Edward sits back down on his stool and crosses his fingers together in the shape of a small temple, full of all his hopes, desires, and fears. He comes to rest his mouth on this fashioned temple made of his own two hands, takes and gives breath to its fleshy and unique walls, and speaks from its altar: “Daddy, are you there.”