To Build a Better Monster #2

To Build a Better Monster #2

[Fixing Frankenstein chapters]

[This is an alternate ending to To Build a Better Monster #1. The italicized parts are lifted word-for-word from the original section. The regular font parts are the interventions.]

To Build a Better Monster #2

My monster stared at me, yellow eyes wild within twisted brow and black broken lips struggling against one another, twitching for speech but finding none. When he finally did speak, his voice came so deep and low that it’s typical rasping quality all but disappeared. It seemed to me he’d become a hollow mountain echo,

“So be it, Frankenstein. I now perceive that had I not broken my faith with mankind and yourself so violently, my hope for a union between our two souls might yet have been realized. I did not forgive when it was mine to forgive. You also refrain from forgiveness, but forbearance you show me, and duty you model most perfectly, albeit belatedly. I here now consecrate my remaining powers to the wretched partnership you propose.”

A former gardener’s home, removed about a mile from my family’s primary residence, yet well within the bounds of our property, situated deep within a secluded wood and all but forgotten by the world, would become our laboratory. With front door at all times locked, and a safe and easy escape into the dense forest behind, my creation and I would return to my original alchemical ambitions, augmented as at Ingolstadt with the proven methods and abiding insights of science, but refined now with a chastened ambition and refuted pride. We arranged to meet there in three months time, by which point I was to complete all renovations and announce to my family that portion of my intentions most likely to procure their acquiescence and the laboratory’s complete privacy. A handshake being too intimate a seal for such a hopeless and unhappy bid at redemption, we nodded our mutual affirmation to this most melancholy of pacts and parted. My creature bounded effortlessly over ice and stone and vanished in a twinkling.

The labour of winding among the little paths of the mountain and fixing my feet firmly as I advanced perplexed me, occupied as I was by the emotions which the occurrences of the day had produced. Night was far advanced when I came to the halfway resting-place and seated myself beside the fountain. The stars shone at intervals as the clouds passed from over them; the dark pines rose before me, and every here and there a broken tree lay on the ground; it was a scene of wonderful solemnity and stirred strange thoughts within me. I wept bitterly, and clasping my hands in agony, I exclaimed, “Oh! stars and clouds and winds, ye are all about to mock me; if ye really pity me, crush sensation and memory; let me become as nought; but if not, depart, depart, and leave me in darkness.”

Morning dawned before I arrived at the village of Chamounix; I took no rest, but returned immediately to Geneva. Even in my own heart I could give no expression to my sensations—they weighed on me with a mountain’s weight and their excess destroyed the mad hope and desperate fear beneath them. Thus I returned home, and entering the house, presented myself to the family. My haggard and wild appearance awoke intense alarm. I spoke, slowly and deliberately, stumbling through the gauze of physical and moral exhaustion cocooned about me, only enough to relate that after two day’s rest I would explain myself and unfold my purpose.

For two days I did not quit my bed except to take my breakfast and lunch at the little square desk by my bedroom window. While passing in and out of a disturbed but gradually more and more restorative sleep, I prayed again as in the mountains, but this time asking with all my inner might for a clarity that would still my frenzied emotions and enlighten my tormented thought, “Oh! ye gods, ye signs and wonders, Oh! ye blessed influences, Oh!, God beyond all men and gods, if ye would pity me, crush sensation and memory; let me become as nought; but if ye require instead some further exertion of me, reveal that well-lit path to my dark thoughts; if I must live, grant me the wisdom that I might yet live well and serve my fellows, the wisdom to live beyond all ambition but that one holy thread of certain wholesomeness: to know Kindness and unfailingly pursue and realize It.”

On the third day, having Christlike passed through the torments of hell, but of course, being no Christ, but merely a Frankenstein, emerging only a man, albeit a gentler and deeper one, I called my family to the sitting room.

“I am — as you’ve marked with great concern, for which I am both grateful to you and sorry for having inspired in you — much changed. I cannot relate all particulars; please accept these few sorry representations: for chasing glories outside my rightful purview, I’ve been much chastened and miserable made; but yet permitted and condemned to live and breathe this mortal air, I’ve pledged my knowledge and talents to the benefit of the human race. Accordingly, every day Monday through Saturday I will rise at 5AM, pray and meditate upon the only question of any worth in any life: ‘how can my feelings, thoughts and actions actually make things better for myself and others?’, and, packing a few pieces of buttered bread that shall comprise my breakfast and lunch, retreat to the old gardener’s shed, which I shall outfit as my laboratory. There I must require absolute isolation, and implore you never in any circumstance to visit me, nor allow another to do so. Indeed, my whereabouts should be known only to those gathered now in this room. I entreat you — for your safety as well as my own — to never breathe a word of my hidden efforts — no, not even amongst yourselves! At 4PM I will return to you.

“I allow that your acceptance and support of my pleas for secrecy and unchecked activity requires a faith in me, my purpose, ability, and fitness that is not well deserved by one, such as myself, who has lately shown himself so unstable and unaccountable. However, I am convinced that asking this of you, my dear ones, belongs to my duty as I now understand it, and so I do ask it, humbly but with determination.”

My father, Ernst, and Elizabeth sat on the sofa, while I stood above them, shaking slightly. All sat with drawn faces in silent contemplations until my father rose to speak,
“It is not easy for any human soul to discover its proper use and function. One must weigh factors and considerations as manifold and varied as life itself. And, in the final analysis, however much God reveals to us, however deep and wide our insight and wisdom grow, much remains forever concealed from mortal thought. It is true that you were feverish and seeming lost of late, but today you address us with a renewed solidity, vigor, and gentleness of spirit — all of which speaks well of your current reasoning and its conclusions. As your father, I wish most of all for your health, safety and well-being, but I also recognize the necessity of a worthy and uplifting task. I pray that you have found or are in the process of discovering one. You have my blessing, with this sole caveat: It is my fervent hope that in time you will wish to share more of your endeavors with those closest to you, as too much secrecy is as unconducive to personal lucidity as it is to familial cohesiveness and joy. This change of heart I do not demand, nor even request, but merely desire with all my being.”

With this he put his arms around me. Ernst swore to abide by my terms, welcomed me back home, and taking my right hand in his, embraced me with his left. Elizabeth lifted herself up off the sofa, put her slender arm under mine, and proposed a walk in the garden. On this walk she affirmed her faith in me, and I mine in her; and we agreed that the time we did have together we would nurture and care for as if it were the most beautiful and holiest of objects — as indeed we now realized it was.

It remained to inform Henry Clerval, but as even an abridged account seemed best relayed in direct conversation, I decided to wait for his return from Ingolstadt.

To avoid local interest, I engaged carpenters from Lausanne, about a day’s journey from Geneva. Assisted by a native Lausannian known to my father since his university days, I engaged three agreeable, soft spoken, hard-working Mennonite carpenters. Kept in our guest house and with all their needs attended to by our servants, they had no call to venture outside our property and, being God-fearing family men with no stomach for worldly provocations, readily assented to my injunction against doing so.
Though obliged to spend a small portion of each day overseeing the workers’ progress, I was largely at liberty, and wandered innumerable hours through the acres of surrounding woodland.

My heart and mind continuously lurched towards manic panics and despondent defeats, by turns vainly seeking refuge in the most fantastical hopes and the direst dreads. I struggled against these tendencies of escape, these mad lusts after my thought’s own suicide. Again and again I forced my wandering intellect back upon those few critical points I’d resolved to address.

Had I foolishly endangered my family? Suppose on our appointed rendezvous, I meet the creature with a pistol tucked behind my back? Did not his past crimes and the threat of future ones justify, if not demand such a step? But I had spoken to him at length and knew that he was not a man-killing tiger roaming through the village, but rather a human, endowed with the same consciousness as myself, and thus beholden ultimately not to the rule of the jungle, but to that of mankind. Ah, but there again the difficulty permitted no obviation: he was a twice confessed murderer and by the rules of man he must hang.

And yet, who had I been to create and abandon him? What right had I to treat him thusly? And now I believed myself his rightful judge and executioner? And, his great intellect notwithstanding, was this creature still not, emotionally, morally, and spiritually considered, a small child? Was he not but two years old? Would I condemn a toddler’s life?

And then again, if pistol I employed and he dodged the attempted assasination, wasn’t he likely to extract a terrible vengeance on myself, my family, and any number of innocents?

I attacked the dilemma from every vantage I could imagine; always it repelled me like an unconquerable mountain, leaving me bruised and frustrated at its base.
And what of my first intended project? A good and wholesome companion would indeed exert a salutary influence on any creature, however depraved. But if my decision to create life seemed a vain and impious mockery of the Creator, how much more so appeared my new purpose: the creation of Goodness. For was that not what I now purposed?
What drives any given human being to act for good or evil in any given moment? Daily habits and routines, attitudes and beliefs imbibed from neighbors, one’s physical and mental configurations and dispositions: so many factors interacting in untraceable subterranean labyrinths decide a person’s character and its expression. Yet for all that, it remains a fixed principle that if good and evil are to have any real meaning and lasting value, the difference between the two must lie deeper than merely mental or physical configurations. If anything is to truly matter, True Goodness must exist; and if human lives are to have any real meaning, human truth and goodness must relate meaningfully to True Goodness Itself. But what could that relationship be? And how could I create a mind and body predisposed to perceiving, tuning into, and following that Goodness?

As I revolved this question in my mind, I would sometimes reflect upon the Oriental texts I’d distractedly perused while Clerval’s more diligent studies won him mastery of both language and content.

At that time, the Buddha spoke to Mañjuśrī, saying, “As the Ones Who Are Thus Gone speak of self-wisdom, what is that ability of belief?” Mañjuśrī [an enlightened student of the Buddha’s] said, “Such wisdom is neither a dharma [aspect of or teaching about reality] of Nirvāṇa [“blowing out” or “quenching” of the flames of delusion] nor dharma of birth and death; it is the practice of silence, the practice of stillness; it neither severs desires, hatred, and delusion, nor does it not sever them. Why? It is without creation and without destruction; it is neither apart from birth and death, nor with it; it is neither the cultivation path, nor different from the cultivation path. Such understanding is called right belief.” The Buddha spoke to Mañjuśrī, saying, “Excellent, excellent! Thus have you explained the profound meaning of this principle.”

The Buddha said, “Bodhisattva-mahāsattvas should be mindful of the Single Action Samādhi [constant state of heightened meditative consciousness], constantly striving with effort and without indolence. Gradually cultivating and learning, then they are able to attain entry into the Single Action Samādhi , and have realization of its inconceivable merits. However, those who slander the true Dharma without belief, or who have obstructions of evil karma from grave offenses, are unable to enter it.

Without pretending to believe or disbelieve, adequately understand or completely miscomprehend such language, one can nonetheless glean a principle: that the fundamental ingredient in wisdom and goodness is not so much one’s physiological construction — which is always mundane and thus forever provisional, fleeting, and faulty —; but is instead determined by one’s own efforts, and that chief among these efforts is a mind-silent self-searching. This stands to reason: if there’s to be any hope for human minds and hearts to feel and act wisely, we require an indwelling wisdom that is in some sense intelligible to one’s mind and heart; but of course true wisdom is a Godly thing and not a human one, and therefore our relationship to it can be literal nor certain, but must instead take the form of an — of necessity imperfect, but for that not therefore necessarily incoherent or inadequate — organization of our conscious space around this indwelling wisdom.

These reflections I would occasionally augment with those from the Greeks. In particular did Plato’s “Republic” reassert itself within my thought. Plato divided the soul into three parts: Appetite, Courageous, and Reasoning. Declaring Reason to be the only aspect of our being that could adequately contemplate its own or any other’s proper goals and function, he concludes that Reason should rule both itself and our other aspects. But what insight must Reason attain if it is to adequately steer the whole (individual human or political organization of many human beings — as the case may be) towards that which is truly Good and worthy? It is here that Plato introduces the Form of the Good, which he seems to understand as both a kind of divine pattern of the essential element within all earthly goodnesses, as well as the supreme Reality Itself. The wiser soul is better organized and ordered around this mystic, indwelling (because It is everywhere and thus permeates our entire conscious space) Knowledge that is also simultaneously Goodness and Reality. Where is this insight to be gained? It is wider and deeper than words, but perhaps in the practice of silent contemplation and gentle kind resolve one can more and more adequately circle round It with one’s thoughts, feelings, words and deeds.

In musing upon the relation of human goodness to divine Goodness, I found my despondency give way to curiosity and affection. I began, in this softer, calmer state, to sketch a companion for my enemy:

My first monster, who, in honor of a pebble dropped into an abandoned well whose normal “plop” came to my ears through strangely distorted and sing-song, I began referring to as “Vuh”, was seven and a half feet and weighed a little over 400lbs. Good: rather than deprive his partner — who, to form of the twain a rough “Liebe” (German for “love”), I’d taken to calling “Lee” — of her legs, I’d simply allow a slightly exaggerated dichotomy of the sexes rob her of the superhuman. She would be six and a half feet and weigh little more than 200 pounds. I’d craft her rugged enough to withstand his fond caress, but no more capable of defending herself against his violence than would be a remarkably strong human. Though this was perhaps a disservice to her, it was less of one than leaving her legless, and it removed the most pernicious objection to the endeavor: that I would people the world with not one but two unstoppable juggernauts.

Her spiritual and moral development would be left primarily to her upbringing. Given a well functioning nervous system and brain, coupled with a nurturing environment, including religious and philosophical instruction, as well as contemplative and charitable disciplines, she would grow into a happy, generous, intelligent, even-tempered, kind-spirited being. Already I construed a future in which my family and Clerval took a part in Lee’s care and education. Furthermore, I beneath the sun-dappled foliage opined, neither Lee nor Vuh need be so ghastly of appearance. With a few refinements of my art, both could be made to look quite presentable.

I tanned, and added new strength on top of that which I gained back. Was I succumbing to the same hubris that had already once sinned so gravely against my loved ones? Or was I atoning for my past mistakes? And surely my family would guess even if Vuh did not divulge that he and not Justine had murdered William! Even if I could forgive Vuh the monstrosities perpetrated in the anguished confusion of his first two years of existence, no one else could be expected to; nor should anyone forgive me my part in these crimes.

And so my thoughts swept up and down upon the waves of various reflections, though over time, as I renewed constantly my commitment to the Light of Pure Love — tainted by neither hope nor fear —, a calm abiding grew gradually within, and the totality of my thought bent towards cautious optimism.

On the appointed morning, I opened all the doors of my laboratory, sat on a small wooden chair by the front door, and awaited the monster. At precisely midday, with the summer sun high in a clear blue sky, he walked through the front door, as calm and collected as an established barrister entering his mahogany offices. His clothes also lent him a shine of bourgeois respectability: a fresh linen shirt with a high collar beneath an elegant blue double-breasted felt coat, closed at the bottom with rows of shiny gold buttons, the V-shaped open chest accentuated with wide lapels on either side. His breaches carefully tucked into fine silk socks, themselves well-received by shiny black shoes. His new beaver top hat he held carefully in an iron hand as he ducked under the door frame.

“Frankenstein! You’ve kept your word! I shall keep mine.”

“Hello, have you given yourself a name?”

“No. A name is useful only in human society, where I myself am of no use.”

“Will you take the name, ‘Vuh’?”

A crinkled smile cracked his leather face. “One name’s as good as another to a phantom.”

“Very well Vuh, I’ve made a list of items here. You will procure them for me. But first we shall follow the daily purifying practice I’ve prescribed for our souls. It consists chiefly in silent and thinking-less introspection, followed by scripture readings and prayers for deliverance. It is premised upon a faith in wisdom and our ability to connect with wisdom through the standard means: introspection, the study of inspired words, and practicing loving kindness. I know not whether such efforts will be enough to save our souls, but perhaps with careful application they can keep us from further sulliments of our spirits human and monster.”

Here the monster laughed a loud, rumbling, thunderous cackle, causing the roof’s support beams visible distress. “A dead man has nothing to lose by asking for life, Frankenstein!”

And so we set to work. The beginning and end of each day we devoted to silent reflection and metaphysical studies. The remaining time Vuh alternately labored on portions of the machinery I’d designed. During the night, he ran his errands, the fruit of which I assessed, modified, and arranged each following morning.

The elixir of life consists of a precise configuration of chemical ingredients. By bathing the raw meat of an animal in this concoction, the scrapes and wounds of death and — assuming it not too advanced — decay are dissolved, new and better connections are formed, and, with the correct influx of the precise voltage and current at exactly the correct time and in the correct way, the creature is rejuvenated; or — if it be a new creation; or, as in the case of my meager science, a pot-pourri and hodge-podge of deceased personages — the being is born.

Having fabricated and hidden the requisite chemical constituents prior to Vuh’s arrival, I resolved also to force his absence during the final stage of my work, thus concealing from him all critical aspects of the process. However, his ghoulish face wore an increasingly agitated mien as his companion took shape in the ice box where I in heavy coat and he in old rags performed our operations; and the evening before her first breathe, he preempted my plan with his own more drastic one:

“Frankenstein! What have you done to me! Abandoned to my own evolutions, I lost the higher way and broke that common, sacred law which binds all watchers of the Light, be they man or monster. Too late did you bestow your pity, attention, and kindness! In the wild ravages of a demented loneliness, I broke the faith and forfeited my place within human fellowship! Left to rear myself, I created a monster out of the cavernous mind and body you had contrived! That new soul in yon assembly room deserves the innocence she will be born with, not to be rudely tacked from birth onto another’s broken life! Release me, Frankenstein. Allow me to quit you and her. Better I bear the shame and stain alone. Better for all, most of all her.”

I eyed him approvingly. He gave voice to the very misgivings that had latterly wrapped vice-like about me, clenching my shoulders, bending my neck, stooping my strength.

“Every twelve months from this date, you will locate a reliable post, post me a letter detailing your exploits, sensations, considerations, and resolutions; and wait there for my response. When Lee has lived for three years and you five, I shall tell her of you, of your origin, of my mistakes and yours. If she wishes to read your letters, they will be presented her; if she asks to make your acquaintance, I shall inform you of her desire.”

Vuh nodded a slow ascent.

“I ask only that you promise me that you’ll faithfully continue our daily spiritual practices and that you shall perform no violence against any fellow creature, no matter how just the cause may appear. Your strength and intelligence are superhuman, but for the rest you are but a man, and liable to error. Violence is fatal and terrible, and as such amplifies and finalizes mere errors until they become calamities like those which hang now over our two weary heads. Help people where you can, but do not answer harm with harm; seek always instead to find the third way: the way to help without harm.”

“I swear all this, and to abide by the code of nonviolence and selfless benevolence; and now I must flee this place, where I’ve learned too much of hope and fear, too much of regret and wrong.”

And with that, wrapped in the dandified finery with which he’d entered our cottage laboratory, Vuh ducked out the door into the morning light and was gone.

[Return to original Frankenstein: Latter Half of Chapter 17]

Frankenstein – Ch. 17

Source of the Buddhist text:
Mahāprajñāpāramitā Mañjuśrīparivarta Sūtra
Translated from Taishō Tripiṭaka volume 8, number 232

Frankenstein’s philosophical thinking in this section is influenced by your author’s Something Deeperism

Author: Bartleby Willard
Editor: Amble Whistletown
Copyright: Andy Watson

[Fixing Frankenstein chapters]

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