After the cataclysm took place, people, or rather the beings that people transformed into, would refer to it as The Great Switch. When these beings recalled how the world had been before The Great Switch, what struck them above everything else was how blind they’d been in those times.
Back then, religious teachings and scientific theories kept mankind obedient, cowed through ominous prophecies of apocalypses and Armageddon, when all life on Earth or indeed the Universe itself would come to an end. What no one had foreseen was that there could be far greater calamities than universal annihilation.
The Great Switch was a process which caused the inner and outer selves of human beings to swap places, so that the emotional, mental and spiritual characteristics now became external and vice versa. It must be stressed that it wasn’t just a case of the intangible inner characteristics becoming visible; rather, the inner selves now literally became the outer physical bodies, while the physical bodies became invisible internal entities.
Naturally, the consequences of this event were momentous and far-reaching. No longer could anyone conceal their true inner self; it was exposed in all its glory and disgrace, in all its beauty and ugliness. Many lives were wrecked, relationships destroyed, and careers ruined, as a person’s internal neuroses, anxieties, delusions, hatreds, prejudices, insecurities, and character flaws were revealed to their partners, family, friends, work colleagues and strangers. The very structure of society was threatened, for its smooth running was greatly dependent upon people suppressing and hiding their true natures and feelings.
After The Great Switch, a large proportion of the world’s population disappeared completely. Of all the competing theories about this vanishing, the most popular one was that the superficial, soulless lives led by many had made them emotionally, mentally and spiritually vacuous. Consequently, once the Great Switch had taken place, those people were rendered externally empty and became invisible.
Yet, for some, this turn of events proved to be a godsend. Before the Great Switch, physical appearance was of paramount significance; people’s impressions and opinions of you were predominantly based upon how you looked. In your daily interactions you were constantly, indeed instantly, judged on your looks. Your inner essence, being imperceptible to others, required much more time and effort to uncover. Few were interested or willing to do that, as, in those fast-paced times, people hardly had the time to discover their own inner selves, let alone the inner selves of others.
And so, it was especially touching to witness the pride and joy of some of those who had been physically ugly before this event, those who, despite all the slights and the disregard meted out to them by the world, maintained their dignity and self-respect, their souls not begrimed by bitterness, self-loathing or envy. Now, their inner purity sparkled brilliantly for all to see and marvel at.
On the other hand, it was rare to come across someone who was strikingly good-looking both before and after The Great Switch. Maybe it should not have been surprising for, given the ceaseless attention, admiration and favoritism that was lavished upon those of great physical beauty, it was inevitable that they would become self-absorbed and incapable of empathy. And so, after this cataclysm, a large proportion of the blindingly gorgeous turned into some of the most hideous beings around, their ugliness causing others to turn away in shock and disgust. Yet there was pity for them too, and a desire to help somehow.
It was particularly ironic how the mirror, once the most treasured possession of the beautiful people, now became the bane of their existence—something to avoid at all costs, lest they catch sight of their transformed selves. Indeed, mirrors and other reflective surfaces became horrifying and loathed objects for many in this post-Switch world. Few had the courage to see themselves exactly as they are. Perhaps they were terrified of facing the stark truths their reflections might reveal. Or, maybe they were afraid of what they might not see, given how easy it had been in the pre-Switch world to delude yourself about possessing undiscovered talents and untapped potential, and to convince yourself that all these marvellous gifts were supposedly hidden in the depths and shadows of your mind and soul.
It should be mentioned at this point that The Great Switch was so all-encompassing that its effects were not limited to mankind. All living organisms, from bacteria to whales, and everything in between, were affected too. However, unlike many human beings, none of the other living organisms disappeared after this event, thus settling once and for all the age-old question of whether it was only man who possessed a soul. It was now indisputable that all microorganisms, plants and animals had an inner self too. Moreover, in stark contrast to the prevalence of ugliness in post-Switch mankind, they all became beings of simple yet distinct beauty. From this it could be concluded that every non-human living creature, no matter how loathsome or harmful it might have been in the eyes of humanity, no matter how devoid it might have seemed of any redeeming features, had a pure, beautiful soul. Regardless of how much suffering and death such organisms as typhoid bacteria, malarial mosquitoes and lice have caused to mankind over the eons, their inner selves all shone with the same plain, steady radiance.
How exactly did The Great Switch come about and what had caused it is still being fiercely debated: Was it God’s doing? Or was it a hitherto unknown, yet completely natural stage of the evolutionary process? Perhaps it was something else entirely; a singular, unprecedented phenomenon that neither science nor religion could explain. What is not debatable is the radical transformation this upheaval wrought upon the Earth, for it had affected each and every living entity. Even embryos and fetuses’ gestating inside their expectant mothers were not immune from its effects.
Perhaps the scenario that I have painted seems implausible and utterly preposterous. Yet, who is to say that our current reality is not actually a temporary aberration from the state of being described above? What if it is only during this period of existence that we briefly possess physical features on the outside, and emotional, mental and spiritual features on the inside? And what if, once in the Afterworld, we exist for all eternity with our inner selves externalized?
Is that as good a reason as any for us to start working on our souls, to start devoting as much time to developing and improving our emotional, mental and spiritual selves as we devote to bettering and beautifying our physical bodies? For, after all, these fragile corporeal bodies belong to us but for an instant of time while our inner selves may live on forever.
I leave you to ponder these questions. And if you choose to dismiss my suggestions as absurd nonsense, let’s catch up again to talk about them when we are both dwelling in the Afterworld. I will then say to you, without a trace of smugness or schadenfreude in my voice: “I told you so!”
By Boris Glikman
Opal Writers’ Magazine, November 2020
BORIS GLIKMAN is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia. His stories, poems and non-fiction articles have been published in various online and print publications, as well as being featured on national radio and other radio programs. He says: “Writing for me is a spiritual activity of the highest degree. Writing gives me the conduit to a world that is unreachable by any other means, a world that is populated by Eternal Truths, Ineffable Questions and Infinite Beauty. It is my hope that these stories of mine will allow the reader to also catch a glimpse of this universe.”