Lunch turned out to be more of the same filled cereal bars they had eaten for lunch yesterday, but served cold this time. The salty, pemmican-like filling that had oozed when warm now proved challenging to chew, and Jack had to take frequent swigs of water to get it all down.
“Right. Time to work on this,” Nam declared after finishing her water. She moved closer to him, staring into his eyes. He straightened, uncertain of her plans. She placed her hand on his forehead as if checking for fever.
“Concentrate. Focus your mind upon my palm. Tell me what you see within it.”
He looked upward and she made a clicking noise with her tongue. “Not with the eyes, Jack. Keep those on my eyes and focus on my hand.”
Obliging her, he stared into gray irises. She raised an eyebrow. “Focus on my palm, not my eyes.”
His temper broke and he pulled back. “What the hell?!”
Rogan clapped his back. “Steady, friend. It’s not so easy to grasp. Nam, perhaps I ought…”
“No,” she commanded, still looking at Jack, “and I am certain that Althem will back me up on this, Rogan. You might be the right teacher for everything else he needs, but blind as you are, you are the wrong choice for this lesson.”
Her expression softened once more as she returned her hand to his forehead. “Again. It is important that you learn this.”
“Learn what, exactly?” Jack demanded.
“The mind begins with the senses, and flux arts are a thing of the mind. For that reason, they must begin with the senses as well. The manner of your art depends upon how the sensations of flux come to you.”
Her manner again reminded him of a schoolteacher, so much so that he began to wonder if she might have actual experience in Education. The age she claimed to be would leave room for a few career changes, regardless of how young she appeared. He resolved to grasp what she was teaching and get this over with, since he was a little too old to play the role of a difficult student.
“I’m supposed to be discovering some sort of mind’s eye, right?”
“Have discovered it, Jack. That is why you cannot walk. It is overwhelming your senses. Your challenge now is controlling it. Listen and continue to focus. Eyes on my eyes, mind on my palm.”
He tried to do as instructed, while she continued to speak. “The scientists of your world can wonderfully explain the brain and how it processes data, but they have never truly described how it thinks, because it cannot be done in terms they accept. The closest they come is more properly a discussion of human instincts and reactions, or an exploration of language and logic skills. They never reach as far as the substance of thought itself.”
“Hush,” she commanded. “This is a lecture, not a conversation. Listen carefully and learn. And Jack, make yourself understand this next part in molecular detail.”
He nodded without a word.
She resumed. “Because your scientists cannot map it in chemistry and physics, some of them even deny that ‘thought’ exists. It is a grave error, and the error arises from confusing the mind with the brain. The brain is indeed a mere organ of the body, which functions precisely as they understand, and they have learnt it in wondrous detail, Jack. But they completely misunderstand the mind, because it has no physical substance. Its roots sprout from the synergy of neurons and instinct and memory exactly as the scientists understand, but it spreads its boughs and limbs into a realm beyond the physical universe. It lays in an entirely different manner of existence, Jack. Scientists doomed to remain enslaved to their material existentialism cannot comprehend this. And thanks to this fundamental error, they forever mistake the acorn for the oak.”
Jack was not a religious man, and didn’t believe in souls and spirits any more than the scientists she was scorning, but he needed her instruction, so he remained quiet. He would let her believe whatever voodoo she liked, as long as she could teach him how to make the world stay put while he walked.
Although it was disconcerting how it sounded like she had a good understanding of his world’s science, but spoke of it as something primitive.