The Compound was not only a residence for the Collector and his visitors; it was also a retreat centre for people from NovAngeles and other places who wanted to unwind in a contemplative setting. Some of them were members of the Organarium who considered themselves above the laws that limited the discourse of ordinary citizens. Scientists and politicians who were (or thought they were) indispensable and therefore immune to censorship and intellectual confinement. One of them had invited Kasia so she asked Mirar to take some time off from her daycare and come with her. The retreat was advertised as a seminar on Being Human, a topic with which Mirar was obsessed. Kasia thought it might help her overcome her addiction to reading illegal books.
Before breakfast the entire group would assemble to sit in silence for a while and any members of AutoPress who happened to be around were welcome to join the circle. They sat on cushions, or low chairs for those with sensitive knees, and tried to simply observe their own physical and mental processes, travelling thru the labyrinth of the mind without letting go of the simple thread of the breathing body. “We come back to the body by noticing each breath, the instructor said. Each time we breathe out we bring our attention back to observe the state of the body as it expels the dead air and we observe the space around the body as it reinflates.”
Mirar smiled at the idea of the body as a kind of balloon but then she remembered to come back to the inbreath and observe her own balloon exhausting oxygen. Anthrobots, like plants, breathed in carbon-dioxide and breathed out oxygen. We bots are like walking trees she thought, supplying our human neighbours with oxygen while they supply us with CO2. Sometimes when they kissed she and Kasia would simply exchange gases. “But what is the point of this practice?” she asked. By watching her robotic consciousness she might learn more about being a bot but how would that help her to learn about being human?
“Remember,” said the instructor, “ that you were built by human beings who were trying to construct a machine with something like a human mind, so the better you understand your own mind, the better you will understand their vision of the human mind. To understand your mind you should read the technical explanations of course but you also need to observe the nearest and always available example which is your very own mind.”
Mirar was a perfect meditator because she never missed an outbreath but between outbreaths she noticed that her mind was constantly replaying and rehearsing scenes of interaction between herself and Kasia or herself and other people or kasia and other people. ‘This is how I learn,’ she thought, ‘this must be how humans learn.’ After the session she compared notes with Kasia who confirmed that her experience was quite similar but also very different.
“I find it really hard to bring my attention back to the outbreath,” she said. I keep getting sucked into those relational fantasies. I don’t just replay them—I relive them. I keep thinking about fucking or food and refight old battles, stuff from my childhood.”
Mirar gazed at her with perfect equanimity. Even though she had never been a child, she had been blessed with a perfect childhood. It had been downloaded into her memory before she left the factory.