When I was a boy, I pictured myself as an adult, sitting in the control room of my vast mansion. For every light, every door, computer, appliance and person there was a switch, a slider or a button to control it. My fantasy was to be in this room, commanding the house and the people in it. To let people in, I would press the button for the door, slide the dimmer on the lights, speaking to them through the sound-system. I could queue up music or perhaps even switch the oven on to prepare dinner. Communication, a hug, kiss, eye contact, never figured in this scenario. I would be the architect of their journey, skillfully guiding them through the many rooms of my house. I would satisfy their whims and make them feel comfortable, but most importantly, I was in control of the environment. Each aspect of the house related to a physical controller, firmly between my fingertips.
As I became older, for the most part I put aside this fantasy. But a child’s fantastic dreams are an adult’s regrets and wistful yearnings. It is in those moments that I am most vulnerable that the idea returns to me, comforted as I am by the suggestion of safety. I sometimes imagine a world where people have the same mechanisms, a control panel, organic or robot, a means by which to rationalise them. I mentioned the idea tentatively to some friends of mine. They said with stone-cold faces, “return to the real world Tom, there is no room for such childish fantasy in the adult world. You must simply accept the complexity and confusion of the universe, a reality that denies comprehensive understanding.” A part of me said of course and sighed with resignation, but another cradled the child within me, protecting it from the violent storm of maturity.
I noticed too a wavering in their authority, a crack in the walls of wisdom. They too still searched for this. I spoke to engineers, doctors, futurists. All returned to me with the same solid answer, you must quit your journey, for it has no hope. But still I reached into the ether, remaining within the cushioned safety of my mind.
It was in the shower that I found it. I was attempting to scratch a particularly defiant itch, the kind that grows not fades with time. I felt a small nick in the centre of my back that prompted further exploration. Not a medical deformity, it had clearly been designed, it bore the mark of a creator. While I was excited, I waited, knowing that my expectation might be the only magic I’d feel, before realising I had been duped. I made myself a cooked breakfast, but my appetite was elsewhere and it remained uneaten. There was no trick however. In my bed that night I reached again to the same spot, reaching further now, both hands exploring a new domain, inside a strange cavity.
It was strangely artificial inside. I had expected soft warm skin, but its walls were cold and metallic, with perfectly formed corners. As I slid my fingers from side to side, running through the bumps and grooves, I realised to my delight that what lay within was a set of buttons, sliders and switches. I played and experimented until sunrise, overjoyed with the rationality of my world. No longer subject to the confusion of the world, I was truly master of my self.
It turns out we all have such a panel, lodged in the hardest place to reach, perceptible only to those who know of its existence. I opted to keep the secret to myself, I said it was my distaste for fame and glory and a fear that I would be ridiculed, that people would be so set in their dogma, not even bothering to reach for themselves. More so though it was the safety I found, that I would lose my new powers if it became democratised and open to all.
I did quiz those doctors, engineers and futurists on why they had not discovered this panel before, but they no longer return my calls. You can’t control just anyone this way though. It takes at least a little intimacy. But once I am close enough to gently touch their back, I have captured them and they are placed under my mastery. Locked inside my mansion, they are no longer permitted to surprise me. I am the architect of their lives and I move them from room to room, guiding their experience. There is little excitement here, but I know all that has happened, and will happen, and I am comfortable in that.