What to do

by Miriam English

2021-05-26, 2021-06-03


A slender, long-legged neodog came padding into my workshop on a warm, sunny afternoon, and without introduction said, "Me not know what me do. Me lost."

I stopped working on the part I was building and looked at her sleek, greyhound-like features, wondering for a moment at what convergence of ancient genes would result in such a graceful creature. "I can show you a map."

"Not lost in place, lost in purpose. Me know land. Me look for purpose."

"Ah. The eternal quest." I went back to working on the part.

She sniffed the air. "You no have human."

I shook my head sadly, "My human died of old age centuries ago, but you're welcome to stay for as long as you wish."

"Thanks, but me want human." She sighed.

I nodded. I understood the feeling. "Are you hungry?"

"No. Protein trees along river."

"Of course." I went back to working on the part and we lapsed into silence for a while. She watched me gradually building up multiple layers on the part.

"What you do?"

I smiled proudly and held up the piece. "It's nearly finished. Only another couple of years..."

"No. What you do? Your purpose."

"Oh." I gently put it back down. "I do what interests me. I learn. I build things." I swept my arm to include my large workshop packed with things I'd made. "I watch the things in the valley grow. I watch the weather change. I watch the stars at night. I think about what I have learned."

She gave a hoarse grunt of impatience, "Uh! But purpose. What purpose?"

I shrugged. "I make my own purpose."

"But you machine. No have human. How you have purpose?"

I smiled. I understood. "You don't need a human to give you purpose. They don't have any more purpose than you do. Getting your purpose from a human just offloads responsibility for your life to them. It's lazy. You have to make your own purpose."

She frowned, "No lazy. Look hard for humans. Long, long way. Long, long time."

"Well, you won't find any around here. You have to go to the city." I pointed to the south. I accessed the net. Sydney was 1,100 kilometers away. She could probably keep up a steady pace of 20 or 25 kilometers per hour. If she kept that pace for about six hours out of each day it might take her a little more than a week.

I explained that to her and she shook her head, settled on her belly, and lay her head on her front legs. "City! Ugh! No like city."

"Why don't you like the city?"

"No sky. No hill. No valley. No bush."

I nodded. I wasn't a fan of the city either. It's much nicer out here. Unfortunately, the few remaining humans disagreed.

"Looks like you'll have to make your own purpose after all."

Without moving her head from her paws she raised her eyes to me, then dropped them again. In silence, I continued to apply different layers to the delicate piece I was building.

After a while she lifted her head and asked, "You teach?"

"Teach what? Teach you?"

She gave a nod, "Teach purpose."

I considered that. How would I do that? I wasn't even sure how I create purpose. Can it be taught? Can this neodog learn to create her own purpose? I guess I would find out. It looked like I had yet another purpose. My time was never boring.

"Okay," I said.