Once upon a time, a very well-educated alien was flying through space with next to nothing on his mind. This means a little more than it would if you, for instance, had nothing on your mind; this alien’s mind was the very next thing to a black hole so he really had exactly next to nothing on his mind.
This alien had been doing nothing but zooming around empty space for aeons. He could not even die and decay, because although he was trapped, exiled, in the timeline of the physical universe, he had originally come to be as something else, somewhere else – so you see he was really, absolutely alien. Or at least, he was absolutely alien, relative to the whole Universe.
And that shows you the limits of the word ‘absolute.’
At last the alien spotted the far-away light of a single star. With empty urgent intention, he zoomed toward that star for another aeon or so. And in due time (which insulted the alien mightily) he arrived at the outer rim of that star’s influence. Here, a rock floated that was slightly paler than absolute darkness, that was slightly warmer than absolute zero.
So naturally, the alien with the face next to blankness and the mind next to a black hole blew up the rock. He disintegrated it. He did not decimate it because that would mean blowing up only a tenth of the rock. He did, to be precise, dissolve it into the smallest particles possible. He wasn’t able to un-create the matter of which the rock had been composed.
Then he zoomed toward the sun for a while, and found another rock and blew that one up, as well.
After blowing up a few more rocks, he found something new. It was a slimy rock. The slime was warm – but not boiling – and with his own peculiar way of seeing, the alien saw that the slime contained life. Physical life. Horrors!
The alien read the trajectory of everything in, on, and around the rock – the time, the energy, the matter, the composition, the genetic material – and he saw that if he left the slimy rock alone and nothing interfered, the simple life would eventually bring forth intelligent life – things resembling himself, only in bodily form. Billions and billions of them, enjoying the rock… it would be huge to them, he saw, and homelike some of the time, and sometimes terrifying. They would like one another and sometimes they would raise their thoughts trustingly to the realm he could not enter and invoke powers and compassions they could not see, and these slime-born creatures would penetrate that very world from which he, the well-educated alien, had been exiled lo these many ages. Horrors beyond horrors!
The alien felt that this, finally, was the occasion for a speech. He summoned something into his mind and spoke, and if it had been spoken in contemporary English, it would have gone something like this:
“O Rock, guess what? You are dripping with power – you are potent! What is your potency? It is the fact that if I leave you alone, you’ll bud and blossom into life! You are, to speak precisely, a potential world! That is, you are a world that has barely begun to be a world, and a little of your world-ness is actual but most your world-ness is potential – it’s locked up in your power.
If only your power were of a different sort, you might protect yourself from me. Oh, well.
You don’t feel like a world, do you? Well, that’s because you are deceived by the now-ness of this moment. I’m not.
Now me, I’ve blown up lots of rocks but today I’m not merely blowing up a slimy rock and some slimy one-celled organisms.
No; I’m also slaughtering bacteria and crawling things; I’m killing fish and birds and mammals; I’m extinguishing trees and flowers and cacti; I’m most especially murdering billions upon billions of men and women.”
So the alien blew up the slimy rock.
He didn’t really feel better – ‘better’ is a form of the word ‘good’ and that was impossible for the well-educated alien. He did, however, feel the effects of channeling, for an instant, his unmoderated adversariality into action instead of adding it to his inside-out pool of frustration.
So he spent a very long time looking for another slimy rock. And he found one, and he’s been hanging around it ever since. He keeps reassuring himself that he can blow it up any old time, but he knows that if he disintegrates this world too, it might be a long time before he finds another one.
While he procrastinated, the potential world has transformed much of its potentiality into actuality. The alien, unseen by the people now blithely running around on the world, gets his kick out of people who are not as well-educated as he on the subject of potentiality and actuality. Sometimes they murder mostly potential persons.